"The ageing population presents a truly unprecedented healthcare challenge"

Dr. Conor McGinn on developing technology that can enable people to live independently for longer.

20th December, 2017
Dr. Conor McGinn, Assistant Professor, School of Engineering, Trinity College Dublin

What's your name?

Dr. Conor McGinn

What position do you hold?

Assistant Professor, School of Engineering, Trinity College Dublin

How long have you held the position?

3 years

What are your day to day responsibilities?

My teaching responsibilities involve lecturing and supervising research projects at a Masters and PhD level. I currently teach two Masters-level courses; one in user-centered design and another in innovation in product development.

In my other time, I lead the robotics research program in TCD. Our research focuses mainly on developing robotic technology that can perform assistive functions for people. Our research is highly inter-disciplinary in nature; it spans engineering, computer science and social science.

What is your professional background?

In 2010, I received my Bachelors degree in Engineering from Trinity College. I then went on to complete a PhD in Trinity; my dissertation explored how robots could be designed to be both mechanically simple, yet able to perform challenging locomotive tasks like climbing stairs. Over the course of my PhD, I also spent time at NASA, where I worked on GROVER, an Earth Science project that involved developing a robot that could take measurements of ice thickness in remote, inhospitable places such as Antarctica and Greenland. In September 2014, I became an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering in TCD. I have since co-founded the Robotics And Innovation Lab (RAIL) which has now grown to 11 full time research personnel.

Tell us something very few people know about you?

I get very emotional watching sad movies. I won’t say any more!

You are speaking at the 2018 Health Summit. What are you speaking about?

I’ll be speaking about the work my team and I are doing to develop robots and other technology that can increase the independence of elderly people and those living with disabilities. I will also talk about how this technology can benefit carers, family members and healthcare organisations deliver improved levels of care with fewer resources.

What challenges do you see for the healthcare sector in Ireland?

The ageing population presents a truly unprecedented healthcare challenge. According to The Irish Longitudinal study on Ageing (TILDA), by 2030, one in five people resident in Ireland will be 65 years or older and the proportion of people aged over 80 will increase by 250% (from 2011). As this demographic is associated with higher levels of disability, long-term ill-health, loneliness and other mental health problems, the social and economic cost is set to be huge. For these reasons, there is a massive need to invest in innovative new way of caring for people and developing technology that can enable them to live independently for longer.

Where would you like to see the health service in 10 years time?

I would like to see the health service seriously invest in the future. To address the needs of tomorrow, we need to acknowledge that incremental improvements in the health service will not be sufficient. We need radical change and to create a climate that promotes disruptive innovation at every level in the system.

Dr. Conor McGinn is appearing at The 14th National Health Summit. The agenda and further details for this important national event, at Croke Park on February 8th, is available at healthsummit.ie

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